Italian icon Ferrari outlined its vision for the future yesterday, a future that will never include a self-driving supercar. Also, Porsche was ordered to cough up over allegations of fuel economy fixing and VW bosses questioned America’s capacity for battery manufacturing. All that and more in The Morning Shift for June 17, 2022.
It’s been a big week for Ferrari news. After outlining its ambitions to electrify its portfolio of incredible supercars, the firm yesterday announced that we’d be treated to a glimpse of its first SUV in September this year.
What’s more, that new SUV will be the first of 15 new models for the company that are set for release between now and the end of 2026. But any tech savvy car fans hoping that one of these new models might include some level of self-driving will be sorely disappointed. According to Bloomberg,
“The Italian company recently hosted a couple of artificial intelligence experts who wanted to pitch why Ferrari should embrace autonomous driving. Chief executive officer Benedetto Vigna instead invited them to take a spin in a Ferrari on the company’s Fiorano race track.”
In typical Ferrari fashion, Vigna added that the AI experts admitted that their presentation to try and bring Ferrari over to the self-driving side were “useless.”
In an interview with Bloomberg, Vigna said: “No customer is going to spend money for the computer in the car to enjoy the drive.
“The value of the man, of the human at the center, is fundamental.”
Instead, the firm will continue its focus on driver-assistance technologies, which are commonplace in most modern-day Ferrari supercars. These systems help with traction, starts and make it easier for Ferrari owners to get the most out of their chunk of Italian performance.
Vigna confirmed to Bloomberg that Ferrari would “never” deploy a level-5 autonomous driving system in its cars. That technology could mean the cars could operate completely without human intervention, which, for Ferrari, is a bridge too far.
If Ferrari has been having a good week, Elon Musk and his plethora of companies is having a bad week. After employees at SpaceX began circulating an open letter calling for board members to distance themselves from the erratic CEO, a Tesla investor has now sued the firm and its CEO over allegations of discrimination at the electric car maker.
According to Reuters, Tesla shareholder Solomon Chau has sued the electric car maker, Musk and the company’s board, accusing them of “neglecting to tackle complaints about workplace discrimination and harassment,” which they claim has led to a “toxic workplace culture.”
In the complaint, Chau says:
“Tesla has created a toxic workplace culture grounded in racist and sexist abuse and discrimination against its own employees.
“This toxic work environment has gestated internally for years, and only recently has the truth about Tesla’s culture emerged.
“Tesla’s toxic workplace culture has caused financial harm and irreparable damage to the company’s reputation.”
Reuters reports that the lawsuit against Tesla claims that failure to address allegations of discrimination and harassment at the firm has “caused Tesla to lose high-quality employees.” it added that such proceedings had also resulted in extensive expenditure for the firm as it fought legal cases and settled fines.
The case is just the latest in a long line of problems for Tesla and CEO Musk. Maybe it’s issues like this that led him to put out a call for a crack team of lawyers earlier this month?
German sports car brand Porsche is joining the likes of VW and Stellantis in the exclusive club of “carmakers that had to pay up to settle allegations of fuel economy fixing.”
Automotive News reports that the 911 maker agreed to pay $80 million in order to resolve fuel economy claims on 500,000 vehicles that were sold in the U.S. between 2005 and 2020. As per Automotive News:
“The settlement, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, must be approved by a federal judge and covers 2005 through 2020 model year Porsche vehicles.
“Owners of the vehicles accused the automaker of physically altering test vehicles that impacted emissions and fuel economy results. Impacted owners of eligible vehicles will receive payments of $250 to $1,109 per vehicle.”
According to lawyers for the Porsche, owners claimed that the firm altered the cars’ hardware and “manipulated the software” of testing vehicles in order to achieve more favorable fuel economy. This meant that vehicles used in testing “emitted fewer pollutants and were more fuel efficient” than the ones sold to customers here in America.
Despite coughing up $80 million to settle the claims, Automotive News reports that Porsche has “not acknowledged the allegations in these proceedings,” rather, it is hoping that the agreement will be a means to “end the issue.”
The settlement against Porsche and the relevant claims made against it only apply to vehicles that were sold in the U.S.
Carmakers across the U.S. claim to be ramping up production of electric vehicles to meet growing consumer demand and increased pressure to curb emissions. But, the boss of Volkswagen Group of America has warned that there are still a few challenges to overcome before firms can match the demand for EVs here in America.
While speaking at a forum in Washington, Reuters reports that Scott Keogh, chief executive of Volkswagen Group of America, said that challenges such as limited labor, mining capacity, supply chain issues and broader infrastructure problems could all hamper America’s switch to a battery-powered future.
“Keogh estimated that the United States is making 150,000-200,000 batteries a year and that seven years from now “we need to be making 8.5 million batteries” annually.
“Keogh also said the United States needs to do more to boost manufacturing capacity. The U.S. manufacturing sector has fallen from than 17 million jobs in 2000 to 12.8 million today, which has rebounded to about pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.”
The VW exec said that massive investment in the industry was needed, and that the country as a whole needed to move away from being a “service economy” and back to being a “manufacturing society again,” which, good luck.
But once the U.S. has gotten on top of all those manufacturing constraints, there are yet more challenges to overcome in order to encourage EV adoption. The biggest hurdle is the increased cost electric cars command, and how cutting tax credits for such vehicles could hinder their popularity.
General Motors is a big proponent of EV tax credits, and David Strickland, vice president of global regulatory affairs at the company has said that the industry “needs consumer incentives” as it transitions to a battery-powered future.
According to Automotive News, the GM exec said that “tax credit is ‘how you get the amount of vehicles at a price point where you’re really going to get mass adoption’.”
Tax credits of up to $7,500 towards the purchase of a new electric car in the U.S. help early adopters afford these new vehicles. The increasing demand as a result of credits helps lower production costs for EVs, which Strickland says can help the industry reach a point where it one day “make a vehicle without the assistance.”
Here in the U.S., that credit towards the purchase of a new electric car expires after an automaker has sold 200,000 qualifying vehicles. And that means that companies such as GM and Tesla are now unable to offer the credit to prospective buyers.
That should explain, then, why GM has come together with Stellantis, Toyota and Ford to lobby Congress to try and extend the tax credits for future EV customers.
On this day in 1960, Spanish racing driver Adrián Campos was born. Campos raced in F1 in 21 grands prix but never scored a point. He found better fortunes as a team manager, founding the Campos Meta Formula One team, which would become known as HRT and offer Daniel Ricciardo his first drive in F1.
It looks like it’s set to be a scorcher in New York. Do you have any nice plans for the weekend? I’d quite like to go to the beach, or for a swim, I think.